Let’s ask the burning question for the North of England. People outside most of the large cities voted Leave in justified rage at being ignored. Would they vote Leave again after a week when billions of pounds have been written off our companies and banks? When investment decisions that could bring vital work to the very areas that voted Leave are being put off? When we have seen division grow between young and old, North and South, Scotland and England and Nigel Farage disgrace Britain with another loutish performance in the European Parliament? Even more worryingly some people feel the Brexit vote has given them a licence to openly abuse people from ethnic communities. We have seen the Vice Chancellor of Manchester University having to issue a statement trying to calm fears amongst her international staff about their jobs and European research funding.

In that list I have not even mentioned the political turmoil which is both adding to the crisis but may just give us an opportunity to stop this Brexit insanity in its tracks.

The Labour Party could be on the brink of extinction. Since the decline of traditional industries and mass union membership it has seen a struggle between its socialist and social democratic wings. When the struggle for the leadership is resolved, it is possible that Jeremy Corbyn will be re-elected as leader by the socialist grass roots completing the split between the parliamentary party and activists.

At the same time the Conservatives will have a new leader and Prime Minister who is likely to want a General Election mandate. It was significant that the party’s officials accelerated the timetable so that an October General Election is now possible before the winter sets in.

There is a growing chance that the new Prime Minister will be Theresa May. Although on the Remain side, if she lets it be known that she would appoint Andrea Ledsom from Leave to a new post of Cabinet Minister for Brexit, it may be enough to overcome Boris Johnson.

If a General Election is on the way, there is only one option for social democrats in the Labour Party and that is to link up with Liberal Democrats, Greens and any pro EU Tories who want to join in a grand alliance to ask for a second referendum. One candidate would stand against the Tories in each seat. A normal election would be possible in Scotland due to the strong pro European stance of the people and parties there. The Lib Dems are reported to be gaining members at the rate of one a minute following leader Tim Farron’s pledge to campaign to rejoin the EU. We don’t need to rejoin though, just stop the years of complex, acrimonious unravelling straight away now that people can see they were fooled. We have not triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which would probably put us beyond the point of no return.

There is an obvious risk that such a stance could see UKIP winning many seats accusing a “second referendum” alliance of ignoring the democratic wish of the people. However the situation is so serious that such a charge has to be taken on board and answered in the following way.

The brazen Brexiteers have already been found out on their promises for NHS funding, their ability to cut immigration and the claim that Turkey would be joining the EU soon. Remain forecasts of a massive economic impact on the markets has been proved right. Assertions that Brexit had no idea what shape our relations with the EU would look like have also been proved right and most fundamental of all the Remain campaign was right that our standing in the world would be diminished as we turned inwards to fight ourselves.

Europe must reform and democratise, the issue of immigration must be addressed, the arrogant Jean-Claude Juncker (President of the Commission) must be replaced. But we must stay in the EU.

Cross party coalitions came together in the 1918 and 1931 elections. Grave times call for exceptional measures. All pro EU politicians must unite now or we are on the road to a painful exit from Europe and Conservative governments stretching long into the future.



Nigel Farage believes in plain speaking. Well the UKIP leader now has a rival in that department. Manuel Barroso, the outgoing European Commission President has spelt it out for David Cameron as he seeks to appease UKIP over immigration.


An arbitrary cap on immigrants from eastern Europe would fall foul of the Lisbon Treaty of 2007 and the original Rome Treaty of 1957, Barroso said. So David Cameron would need a treaty change. The Polish ambassador to the UK has said Poland would veto such a change. Therefore Cameron would fail in the negotiations and would be under enormous pressure to campaign to come out of the EU. If he refused then Boris Johnson or the ambitious Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond would be eager to replace him and back a better off out campaign. Under those circumstances it is a racing certainty the British people would vote to come out.


I have believed for a long time that it is more likely than not that a referendum would lead to us leaving the EU, so it is time for business, small, medium and large to start speaking up and spelling out the serious consequences of our withdrawal for jobs.


Pressure is building up in the Labour Party for a switch in their position. It is one of the few principled stands that I admire Ed Miliband for. However MPs are in despair at his poll ratings and some want to grasp at offering an EU referendum in a desperate effort to improve their chances of winning next May. The close shave in the Heywood and Middleton by election has only added to the pressure. There is even talk of a northern Labour MP defecting to UKIP.




The City Growth Commission this week increased the pressure on the government to give more power and money to city regions. The Chancellor is expected to make an announcement in the Autumn Statement. Greater Manchester is preparing a partial back down in its opposition to Mr Osborne’s demand for an elected mayor for the conurbation. They are set to name Lord Smith of Wigan as leader of the Combined Authority. It is far short of the directly elected accountability that the government rightly demand but it may be enough for now.


If the Chancellor hands over 90% of business rates to cities like Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool, the vision of a northern powerhouse will begin to take shape. But what about the rest of the north? I was at an event in Lancaster this week where the economy of north Lancashire and Cumbria was under discussion. Places like Lancaster, Workington and Carlisle struggle to retain their talented youngsters who are drawn to the big cities. They also suffer from the scrapping of the regional spatial strategies that used to provide a framework for economic investment. Similar issues arise in North Yorkshire and the Humber.


So as we power up our big cities, we also need to convince the government that the whole North needs support from an overarching Council of the North